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SOFTBALL: Bay City Western rebounds from finals loss in 2013, tops Portage Central for first ever state title

   | Jeff Dullack

State Champs! Sports Network

EAST LANSING – A year ago, Bay City Western found itself in position to win a softball state title for the first time in school history, but fell at the hands of Mattawan despite leading after five innings.

But this time around, the Warriors weren’t going to let the Division 1 state title get away.

Western jumped out to an early 2-0 lead and later scored two runs in the seventh inning to hold off Portage Central for a 4-2 win to secure the school’s first every softballs state title.

Western head coach Rick Garlinghouse said that scoring the two runs in the first inning took some pressure off of his team early on and the two runs in the seventh gave his squad some leeway when Portage Central started having some success in the bottom half of the inning.

“The two runs, I thought might be enough,” he said. “It took the pressure off, but we were still playing for one more run and the little rally (in the seventh) kind of sealed the deal and we were able to let those two runs score from second and third keep the batter at first base if she got a base hit.”

Holding a 2-1 lead entering the seventh inning, Western tacked on some insurance runs as Blair Miller and Melissa Wegener each tallied an RBI single to push the lead to 4-1, which would come up big in the bottom half of the inning for the Warriors.

Central didn’t go quietly as the Mustangs put pressure on Western with a Meredith Adams double, followed by a Madyson Cole RBI groundout to cut the deficit to 4-2, but Western starter Hannah Leppek would put the finishing touches on the win with a strikeout to end the game.

“Everyone’s asking me that, and I have no words, I just feel great, on top of the world, especially after last year,” Leppek said when asked of what the feeling of winning a state title was like. “I saw her swing and miss and I didn’t realize it right away and I just got dog piled and then I figured it out.”

Garlinghouse said that even though his team surrendered a run in the seventh inning, his team stayed calm thanks to its experience in the state title game last year and a tough schedule played this season.

“They were in the state championship game last year, they played a tough schedule this year,” he said. “Beating Hudsonville, Romeo, Portage Central, we deserve what we got here. Nobody can say we backed in.”

Western took a 2-0 lead early in the first inning on an RBI double off the bat of Kaylynn Carpenter and a sac fly from Leppek in the first, giving the Warriors some breathing room almost immediately.

Leppek said that the early runs helped calm her nerves early on as she had the chance to pitch with the lead from start to finish.

“It calmed me down a lot,” she said. “I was definitely more relaxed after that.”